Smile Maker, Knot Funny, Kids Show Master Plan, A Boy and a Bucket:

Smile Maker – by Barry Mitchell
$39.00 US

Well, here is a trick that has sat in my ‘magic drawer’ for over a year. I truly just bought it because I like Barry Mitchell. I watched the video and thought “Nah, this is not for me”. So there it sat for over a year.

Then I had to come up with a new routine for my library show, where the theme was Funny Business. So, the smiling little sponges seemed like a good fit. Boy, were they EVER! To my complete and utter astonishment THIS was the trick the audience reacted to and talked about it. Go figure.

So I put it in my regular show for the last year. I now know why people react to it so strongly. First, the trick is simple. It’s visual. Really visual! Plus, the story / patter is interesting (or make up your own). The production of the giant happy face at the end gets an audible gasp almost every time.

So. Simple. Visual. Fun. Easy. Pack small. Big impact.

I highly recommend it. The only negative I can say is be careful on the storage of the balls wet – the black could bleed to the yellow if not careful. So I give this:

Norden - 94%

When I first saw Smile Maker I thought it looked silly, then I saw Barry Mitchell perform it and I thought it looked cheesy. But then I thought about how I could perform it instead of thinking about how I saw Barry perform it, so I bought one. Take away a little of the cheese and it turns out to be a very good routine for me and I figured out it’s not the prop or the routine that’s cheesy, it’s Barry Mitchell.

Smile Maker packs small and light, and delivers a surprisingly strong response every time, as strong from the adults watching my show as from the kids. This has earned its status as a standard routine in my show for kids, and is a perfect segue into my vanishing ketchup bottle routine. It’s not strong enough to be an opener or a closer, it’s placed firmly as #6 in my playlist, at a spot when it’s time for me to calm the kids down after a couple of rambunctious routines.

I store the large ball in a ziplock bag with a fabric softener sheet, and the eight two inch balls in a hard plastic container lined with a fabric softener sheet. This keeps them fresh smelling, even when I keep them moist (they perform much better when they’re moist).
I like Smile Maker so much that I also purchased Pumpkin Maker for my Halloween shows. I give it:

Gordon - 90%


 64209 NRG92s


Knot Funny – by Jef Eaton at Kandu Magic

For this review I have to explain a bit of bias. I think I own, or have owned, everything Kandu has made over the years. I believe they are the most underrated magic props on the market. You will see many more review of their products over the year.

Knot Funny has been in both Gordon’s and my working repertoire for almost a decade! I have gone through 3 of them. – not due to the poor construction, but from literally thousands of shows. It’s a simple swapping mechanism for a rope routine, but with so many built in laughs that the kids won’t know what hit them. If you have a sound system and can in some sound effects, it’s even better.

The audience participation is extensive. From ropes falling out of tubes, to end caps popping off, to the box falling apart to the knots flying magically off – this trick is seriously my favorite kid show prop.

Only complaint – the old version had a nail to keep the bottom of the box in place. That has been rectified with a new version that uses a clasp. I still think there is a better solution that this – but it far succeeds the nail. For this I can’t give it the 100% I want to – so I’m going to give it:

Norden – 99%

Knot Funny has been in my show for 10 years and is one of those routines that I have as much fun performing as the kids have participating and watching. My routine encourages abuse of the prop and I’ve been very hard on it, so hard that I’ve had to glue the top together after pieces have broken off several times.

In order to assist with reset time when I have shows stacked, I purchased additional tubes and ropes from Kandu so I can quickly swap them and immediately be ready to go again.

One day I contacted Jeff Eaton (Kandu Magic) and told him I have to purchase another one because I’ve destroyed my main one and he immediately offered to fix my old one. I turned down the offer because I couldn’t be without it and just asked him to send me a new one, which of course came with another set of tubes and ropes. Being the awesome guy he is, he also sent new pieces so I could fix up my old one. Since then I’ve toned down my routine a bit so they won’t end up in rough shape (they’re very well built, I was just REALLY tough on it).

Solid routine, tons of fun, and great volunteer participation. If you’re good at choosing and managing your volunteers, this can be a highlight of your show. I give it:

Gordon – 99%

 64209 NRG99s


Kids Show Master Plan – by Danny Orleans
$50.00 US

I ‘m a bibliophile. I love books. I also love magic – hence, I love magic books. I am also a children’s entertainer – so a book about kids magic, well that just makes me happy.

Now, make it a superb book on kids magic by Danny Orleans – now, I’m very happy!

Danny is a former teacher and you can tell from his writing. This book is a very easy read, to the point that you don’t really know you are learning, as it feels like you are just having a conversation with your pal Danny. Not only does he provide bang on advice on a wide range of topics, he also provides examples and anecdotes from his personal experience.

The chapter on Audience Management – how to deal with difficult kids, crying, how to maintain attention, pre show work, and more – is worth the price of the book alone. Or the Chapter on ‘Character’ , “Show Setting’, “Marketing”, or ‘Set List’...or the tricks taught in the book. It’s all worth the $50 many times over. Danny is a very successful entertainer and you can learn a lot from him. Watch for a future review on his DVD sets.

This book is hardcover, 190 pages long – full colour and it’s beautifully designed. It gets a prominent place on the bookshelf. I really enjoyed this book, so I give it:

Norden – 91%

Danny Orleans has a ton of experience and when he’s willing to share it people should listen. The Kids Show Master Plan is split up into five topics; Character, Set List, Audience Management, Show setting, and Marketing. What you get out of the book will depend on where you are in your career and how open you are to giving thought to some topics in a different way. If you’re well established, you’ll probably get less out of the “Character” section than someone who’s starting out, but even very established performers have areas they need to work on, whether it’s “Audience Management” or “Marketing”, everyone will learn something with this book. Having said that, even if you’re well established don’t gloss over the “Character” section with a closed mind, it could completely change your approach and you may end up getting more out of that section.

Danny is a master of Audience Management with kids and I wish I had this book when I was starting out, it would have been a shortcut through many of the hard lessons I endured. He teaches great methods of how to keep kids attention, how to keep them seated, and to help them learn to be a good audience. His tips helped reinforce some of the things I already knew but to be honest had not put into practice as well as I should and have helped me concentrate on working to improve in those areas with some new strategies. If you’re looking for new material, there’s seven previously unpublished routines. One in particular uses a prop I used to own and didn’t care for and sold, but after reading his routine it makes we want to go out and purchase the prop again so I can work on it with this new philosophy.

For anyone starting out in this business I would rate this as a “must have”, it would make a great gift for a person in your magic club or circle who wants to start entertaining children. For someone very established I would rate it as great to fantastic, something you absolutely will learn something from. I give it:

Gordon – 85%

 64209 NRG88s


A Boy and a Bucket – by Robert Baxt
$72.95 (limited special – DVD, palming coins, bucket)


Robert Baxt knocks it out of the park with his version of the Miser’s Dream. I will be the first to admit that I am not a knuckle buster, nor great at coin work. Great news – you don’t have to be with this routine – all the laughs and byplay cover all the sleights. Yes, you still need to palm a coin – but really this routine goes for laughs and is a great option for a family show.

I like the tips of using a chair, selection of volunteers, the choice of pail (and that comes with the trick if you purchase the package) , coins, patter – everything is covered. The DVD is well edited, and Robert is a fine teacher. You will have no problem learning the trick from watching him. 
Those that know me – know I don’t rehearse a whole lot. This trick I DID spend time in front of the mirror and getting it right. That paid off and the ‘real magic’ that I have been trying to add into my show was present once this routine was put in.

Robert is a fantastic guy and his service is second to none. If you want to add something that looks , and sounds, like real magic then I suggest you check this out. I give it:

Norden – 95%

Miser’s Dream is one of those tricks I’ve avoided performing but loved watching others perform while I sat watching and thinking it’s something I should do. Over the years I’ve had a couple of masters of the routine show me exactly how they do it, with gimmicked buckets, holdouts, and fancy moves. I purchased Levent’s Ultimate Guide to the Misers Dream which really is the ultimate guide if you’d like to learn all about the history and many techniques you can use. It’s a fantastic 3 DVD set but it left me a bit overwhelmed.

Then came along Robert Baxt’s “A Boy and a Bucket” and in typical Robert Baxt fashion he showed me how easy it can be. Robert has a way of breaking it down into very simple moves, and assures us that the physical techniques don’t have to be hard, it’s far more important to concentrate on being entertaining.

After watching his DVD a few times, going out shopping for a good bucket, and grabbing a handful of coins and practicing, it didn’t take long before I was brave enough to try it in a show, and it paid off. If this is one of those routines you’ve avoided because you weren’t sure if you could devote the time to learn, or you thought you had to spend lots of money on fancy props, grab this DVD and see how easy it can be, and you’ll also find some hints on how to be more entertaining. I give it:

Gordon – 93%

 64209 NRG94s


Norden & Gordon have a combined experience of over 35 years, 5000 shows, and 50 international awards for their magic. They are experts in the fields of kids magic and own way to much stuff.


0-25% = Poor product and highly recommend against purchase
26-50% = Fair product. Purchase at own risk
50-75% = Good product. Recommend with conditions
75-85% = Great product. Recommend to purchase.
85-95% = Fantastic – highly recommended!
96-100% = Just buy it. Really.

If you have a product to review please mail it to:

Mike Norden
PO Box 1135
Sumas, WA
98295 USA